Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fall of France - post IV

As Jackson moves onto look at the performance of the French army it is almost impossible to not draw comparisons with the feelings shown in 1914. The difference that did have a real impact was the phoney war that managed to work in the favour of the Germans dragging down confidence and morale.

When the fighting did start missed messages, a tendency to panic and a lack of air support meant that the Germans were able to bypass pockets of resistance.

Bullet points from pages 150 – 200

* By the time the war started the peace movement had virtually disappeared being both discredited and politically unfashionable and most people were resigned to going to war

* Once in the firing line some troops fought well but the phoney war had already reduced morale and the training had been poor and Jackson quotes from Sartre’s diaries to illustrate the level of boredom in the mobilised troops

* A lack of communication led to panic and retreat that was fuelled by the superiority of the German army and air support with Stuka bombers peppering French defences with bombs uncontested for hours at a time

* But there were real accounts of bravery and resistance and for a while the French even thought they might hold out on the Somme-Ainse line that they tried to keep the Germans back from but that passed and the roads became clogged with those evacuating and heading South

* Following the defeat a committee was set up to look at the reasons for it and although it did not conclude its findings until 1954 it turned into an opportunity for the various sides to try and shift the blame and point the finger

* French historians ironically largely ignored the conflict and until de Gaulle ended his term in office there were just a few histories of the defeat but after the great general, who did his fair share of revising history, was gone the floodgates started to open a little bit more

* When objective comparisons are made between the state of France in 1914 and 1940 the country was no better off at the outbreak of the First World War the difference was the victory at Marne in the first conflict that helped build morale and helped settle nerves

The final chunk of this interesting look at the vital period when France turned from a potential block to Hitler's ambitions to an easy opponent tomorrow...

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